Research in African Literatures 35.4 (2004) 142-148
[Access article in PDF]
On Dapo Adelugba and Theater Studies in Nigeria
Dapo Adelugba on Theatre Practice in Nigeria is the first publication under the ISESE interview series, a project of the Ibadan Cultural Studies Group of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. The Ibadan Cultural Studies Group was founded at the University of Ibadan in 1999, with membership drawn from other Nigerian universities and research institutes. Apart from organizing workshops (such as the one on "Folklore and Arts in the Promotion of World Peace," 8-12 January 2001), the group has since inaugurated what it calls ISESE publications, including Isese Monograph Series, Isese: Journal of Folklore, Isese Creative Writing Series, and the Isese Interview Series. The ISESE interview series is designed to comprise interviews with ten theater practitioners, selected across the spectrum of theatrical engagement in the Nigerian society, including, according to the interviewer-author, "the travelling theatre, amateur, semi-professional theatre practitioners and their counterparts in the Universities." The objective is to arrive at a "concise biographic documentation" of these practitioners in order to convey a full picture and impression of their theoretical and practical contributions to the growth and development of theater practice in Nigeria.
This is a laudable project, a courageous initiative even, considering the many constraints currently being faced by academia in Nigeria occasioned largely by the failure of the authorities to provide adequate funding for academic research and ensure preservation of "the idea of the university." The pervasive anti-intellectualism of successive Nigerian governments now at its most absurd and ridiculous level, under the present Obasanjo administration, has dealt a great blow to the task of contemplative inquiry into the causes and effects of fundamental issues by the academia. [End Page 142]
Perhaps the greater value of this publication lies in the fact that it is a useful contribution to theater scholarship in Nigeria. As in most other disciplines, there is a shortage of books written and researched by Nigerian theater academics and practitioners. Much of the work in theater practice exists in the area of performance, and unlike the practice in the West, very few theater practitioners in Nigeria have managed to move from performance to theory. The result is that theater studies in Nigeria have had to rely, in many respects, on foreign textbooks, whereas the field is blessed with its own authorities and experts who over the years have developed an identifiable scheme of expression and aesthetics in all areas of performance art. If there is any regret, it should be that a deliberate project such as this is coming at a time when the discipline has already lost some of its influential pioneers whose ideas helped to shape the direction of theater practice in Nigeria. It is to be safely assumed that the editors of the ISESE interview series would select their subjects carefully enough to reflect the scope and variety of theater practice in Nigeria. It is a project, also, that is worth sustaining.
It is a fitting tribute that Dapo Adelugba on Theatre Practice in Nigeria is the first publication in the ISESE interview series. Adelugba is not just one of the most enduring of theater practitioners in Nigeria today working consistently within the university system for close to four decades; he, more than anyone else, had long before now devoted much energy and personal resources to the same objectives that the Ibadan Cultural Studies Group is seeking to achieve in this series. He had recognized early what he himself refers to in this publication as the value of "secondary orality" as a means of lending permanence to efforts in the Nigerian theater, by addressing the gaps in the documentation of events and personalities in the industry. He is without doubt the more faithful chronicler of this process in various academic essays, but even more so, through the instrumentality of his LACE Occasional...